A Southeast Portland house that served as a Catholic hospice is now a place for another kind of transition. The home of the late Bob and Evelyn Dieringer of Holy Family Parish will shelter a community of women seeking to make a move from life on the streets.
After homeless Portlanders froze in severe weather, attention has turned to better mental health care with housing. The new Martha and Mary Home is on top of that mission.
The ministry for the dying opened in 2010 but had to close in 2015. The 11 surviving Dieringer children decided to give the family house to Catholic Charities of Oregon. The idea is to help women who have been homeless get used to living inside and establishing self-reliance.
The name — Martha and Mary — refers to the Gospel story in which sisters perform both physical and spiritual tasks and learn from Jesus that the spiritual is the greater part.
Catholic Charities will help residents learn the art of asset building — managing money and other resources. Mental health help and other services will be available.
“It’s incredibly awesome,” says Vicki Ford, longtime pastoral associate at Holy Family and daughter of Bob and Evelyn Dieringer. She has seen many homeless women in Portland and admires the mission of Catholic Charities.
She likes the approach of building self-reliance along with providing shelter and supplies.
Ford is certain her parents, who were active in church and charity, would approve.
“They are shining down on this good work,” she says.
Ford would like to see the women secure permanent housing after their time in her old house.
“I hope they feel they belong to the community,” she says, adding that Holy Family will give them warm invitations to join parish life.
Residents moved in Jan. 17. Each room had been lovingly furnished and decorated by volunteers, including many from Holy Family.
“This will feel like a home,” says Chris Beiser, a volunteer from the parish.
Joan Foley, another Holy Family parishioner, says the situation of older homeless women has become critical. Foley, who knew Bob and Evelyn Dieringer, likes the approach of offering housing along with self-sufficiency help.
“We want them to be successful,” Foley says.
The house is located in Eastmoreland. Nearby residents at first were unsure of the hospice and then of the transitional home. Most are now supporters. One neighbor, among the last to come around, eventually became a handyman for the ministry.